We have just completed the Christmas season, and now have entered the unknown territory that is 2014. Happy New Year to all of you. And now, after having to look beyond November and into the Advent season, and looking beyond Advent to plan Christmas, and looking beyond Christmas to plan the New Year sermons, I must look back. You see, I am a pastor, and a lot of what we do is in advance of what we deliver. While I am writing a sermon for the first Sunday of Advent, I am thinking about Christmas Eve. On any given Monday, my parishioners are thinking about the sermon I delivered Sunday, but I am busy researching scripture and writing the sermon for the following Sunday. But once January hits, I need to reverse that thinking. I have to consider the previous year to complete an annual report for the congregation and the dreaded statistical analysis for the denomination.
This analysis, while important (membership numbers, average attendance, age, gender, average congregational shoe size, baptisms, deaths, etc.) fails to tell a story. It says nothing about the year we had, nothing about the trials and tribulations, nothing about the successes, nothing about the joy, nothing about the pain, nothing about why we do what we do. It is just numbers without narrative.
So here is why we do what we do. Last night we held our Shepherd’s Kitchen meal. This is offered to anyone in the community who needs a meal. Our volunteers have a lot of fun serving our guests, and our guests get a great meal filled with lots of fellowship and love. Last night, as I held open the door to invite some guests in, one woman came up to me, gave me a hug and a holy kiss and said “Praise the Lord! I get a cooked meal tonight!” She didn’t care about statistical analysis of how many guests we were feeding. She didn’t care about the average attendance of the congregation or of the ratio between meat and vegetables in the chili. She didn’t care about seeing a chart of accounts. She just wanted to eat a good meal in a place where she was accepted. Pretty simple, isn’t it? Jesus said to feed the hungry and that is what we do and why we do it.
May God bless you abundantly in this New Year.